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Old March 4, 2010, 10:06 AM   #1
pax
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Awareness Levels AKA "You're not as alert as you think you are."

Please do the following before posting in this thread:

1) View the "basketball" video. This link takes you to the basketball video from an experiment by Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris. When viewing the video, try to count the total number of times that the people wearing white pass the basketball. Do not count the passes made by the people wearing black.

2) Read this article: http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~cfc/Simons1999.pdf (at least skim it)

3) Watch the Colour Changing Card Trick video. Note: watch the video before!!! reading the text below the embed.

4) Skim through this blog entry: http://forgetomori.com/2007/skeptici...-under-matter/

I ask you to read/do these things first so that we have a common ground for discussion. If you don't have time to read the articles, please don't post in this thread -- go start a thread of your own discussing something else.






Okay, up to speed now? Good!

I think a lot of these perceptual studies have huge implications for people who believe they are always in "Condition Yellow" and therefore are always aware of every detail of the world around 'em.

Awhile back, I did a bit of research about the cognition effects experienced under extreme stress: you know, "tunnel vision," "auditory exclusion," "tachypsyche," "visual distortions," and so on. Most of us in the shooting world are passingly familiar with these phrases and have a vague-ish idea what they mean. We know that under stress, humans "tunnel in" on the threat, and may not notice other things happening around us. The things we do notice may loom larger or shrink smaller in our perceptions than they are in physical reality, and we may have a distorted perception of the passage of time -- it speeds up, it slows down, everything happens all at once, everything happens in slow motion. Again, we think of these as stress-related phenomena, and of course they are.

But the research clearly shows that many of these perceptual phenomena are not strictly limited to times of extreme stress. In fact, humans are slipping in and out of these states all the time, but we're rarely aware of them; possibly in part because few people ever examine a few brief moments of their lives with the intense scrutiny that a deadly force event is later subject to, such states often pass unnoticed, unremarked and unremembered. After all, the key detail here is that people don't notice what they did not notice!

Here's a great article from Force Science News about this: http://www.forcescience.org/fsinews/...ime-to-update/

What all of this means is that even the most alert person in the entire world IS unaware of his/her surroundings some unknown but non-zero portion of the time.

Someone who is serious about self-defense should give some serious thought to this factor, and consider training to cope with the unseen, unnoticed threat that "comes out of nowhere." Of course the threat that "comes out of nowhere" is actually a failure of awareness, but that's the point. Nobody is as continuously aware as we all wish we could be!

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Old March 4, 2010, 10:43 AM   #2
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It's interesting. I did notice the experiment object (I won't spoil it for people that haven't watched the video and read the article) but I didn't see it until almost the very end of the video. I don't consider myself in condition yellow all the time though. I am in condition white most of the time and only go to yellow when I get cues from the environment that alert me based on my own experiences.

In the card one I missed 3 of the changes completely!!
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Old March 4, 2010, 10:45 AM   #3
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Fascinating but some of it went over my head (wasn't watching). Couldn't watch the videos but I skimmed the other material. I'd like to add a few points that I've mentioned in other posts and this is a good place to repeat it.

I think we are, due to our socialization, a little inhibited from seeing some things, in the sense that we think it isn't polite to stare and it isn't polite to look in certain places, at least not when someone's watching. Children tend not to have this inhibition, you probably know, but it isn't difficult to overcome as an adult. No doubt you've all had the experience of being given "the once over," although it probably wasn't someone trying to decide if you were armed. It is just that people's appearances send a whole bunch of singnals to other people (consciously or not) and strangers may be attempting to decode those signals, in a manner of speaking. There is often mention of people's appearances here.

However, to give that a twist, in line with one of the references, is that if you are actively looking for something, in this case, on another person, you could easily miss something just because your attention is focused. That sounds counter intuitive but if you are certain someone has a pistol concealed under their bulky sweater and are focused on seeing that, you might miss what's in his pocket. Or, if you are watching his gun hand, you might miss what he's doing with his other hand.

On the other hand, provided the object of your attention is not interacting with you or attempting to do so, and likewise if you are not "over focused," you can sometimes see little things you might have otherwise missed. For instance, I was once lounging on a blanket on the grounds of the Washinton Monument one 4th of July about 30 odd years ago, waiting for the fireworks, when a man with a coat and tie wandered by. This in itself would attract attention in a mild way but I noticed an unmistakable bulge just behind his right hip. I'm certain he was wearing a gun, almost certain to be a short barrel revolver and almost certain to be a policeman. I wasn't looking for anything like that but just the same, it practically jumped out at me.

And finally, I'd certainly agree that it's next to impossible to be in top form all the time, even if you go to the range every weekend.
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Old March 4, 2010, 11:52 AM   #4
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You're not as alert as you think you are, even when you're trying to be. Our focus on certain things will leave gaps in other areas of our attention.
I had an idea as to what was going to happen in the first video, but had never actually watched it. It's funny, because when I watched the video again I noticed that my count was wrong. Does that mean that my situational awareness dropped?
Our awareness is dependent on two factors: The average field of direct vision being roughly the size of a quarter held out at arms length. The second one being that it is easy to stop logical thought, as you can see here http://www.pddnet.com/column-krystal...e-cake-022610/
It doesn't necessarily mean we're daydreaming, but more of an admission that we aren't omniscient. Is it possible to be in a constant state of heightened awareness? I guess it is, but it seems to me that general awareness and specific focus are opposite ends of the spectrum.
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Old March 4, 2010, 12:06 PM   #5
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I've found a couple of related things to be very interesting.

The first is the pure fact of Information overload.
Sometimes there is so much activity and information coming at you that there is simply not enough computing capacity in your brain to process it all. At that point natural (and possibly reflexive) filters kick in. The best example I can think of is trying to keep an eye on your kid at a busy/crowded waterpark. Your brain prioritizes "watch the kid" to the exclusion of other stuff happening right near you.

Another thing I've noticed over time is that I'm often aware that a few seconds before I was unaware. That's always discomforting but again, your brain can only process so much at a time.
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Old March 4, 2010, 12:09 PM   #6
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w_houle,

Good post and great link.

I think it's quite possible, and definitely desirable, to pay more attention to the outside world than most others do. Just deciding to notice important details such as who's entering the restaurant or who's around us as we unlock our cars is a big step to avoiding potential danger.

But I also think that the research clearly shows that even people who are paying attention can be caught off guard or caught by surprise.

That's why I'm sometimes unhappy with the blame-the-victim threads we see here, where someone posts a news story about something that happened, and the very first post after that (and most subsequent posts) are devoted to singing the praises of personal awareness and excoriating the victim for not being aware.

These posts miss some major and essential learning points simply because they start from the position that anyone who is paying attention couldn't miss seeing an impending criminal attack. But a more realistic understanding of human nature -- and the nature of criminal attacks -- takes into account that some well trained and otherwise aware people might very well find themselves behind the curve, taken unawares, fighting for their lives after they missed the first cue and didn't see the opening gambit.

Also, I think you're right: general awareness and specific focus do seem to be mutually exclusive. That's why good trainers specifically teach their students about tunnel vision and urge them to "break out of the tunnel" by deliberately looking around after an engagement. I wonder if we should be adapting that same behavior to minor focus shifts (such as a moment of heightened focus on one particular person or behavior, or after counting our change from the cashier).

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Old March 4, 2010, 12:33 PM   #7
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The card trick is largely a case of misdirection; i.e., we are induced to concentrate on the cards and so we miss the other aspects of what we are seeing. This is a staple in "magic" acts, of course, but it is a powerful effect in a lot of situations. For several years, I took part in a musical concert in which we directed the attention of an audience of around 1000 people to one part of an auditorium where an act was being performed, only to redirect their attention in the next moment to a different part of the auditorium to a new act that set up without their noticing it. We could put 40 to 45 acts in a show, do six shows in a row, and I personally did the show for nine years, and the setup of only a handful of the acts would be noticed by audience members, and those only because they involved a large number of people (approaching 100 for some acts) or because something minor went wrong like clanging two music stands together.

I apologize for going on about it, but a valid point is that misdirection can be and is used by those with dishonest intent. Then again, focusing closely on an identified threat has obvious benefits. How does one make decisions about what to focus on, and to what extent? Is there a way to recognize misdirection? How do we train our minds to see the larger picture without losing focus on the identified threat?
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Old March 4, 2010, 12:41 PM   #8
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Quote:
Is there a way to recognize misdirection?
Ah, and therein lies the problem. It's the
the reason why optical illusions work. We
are hard wired to ignore certain
information.
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Old March 4, 2010, 01:08 PM   #9
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Quote:
The card trick is largely a case of misdirection; i.e., we are induced to concentrate on the cards and so we miss the other aspects of what we are seeing. This is a staple in "magic" acts
It's also a staple in several types of crime, especially for pickpockets.
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Old March 4, 2010, 01:13 PM   #10
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Great thread

I have to say that this is by far the best thread I have seen in recent years on a tactical forum.....Kudos to you pax.

Since "combat" (combat, in my definition, relates to not only military style warfare but to any life or death or potential life or death situation) truly is 3 parts mental/psychological to 1 part physical (Napoleon said it first, not me ), being in a heightened state of awareness is absolutely vital in a combat type environment (or avoiding such an occurrence altogether or simply in living your day to day life as an alert and prepared human, not as a sheep.)

The concept of being in a perpetual state of heightened awareness can be described as being "situational" or subjective to your environment. By that I mean according to what situation you find yourself in typically dictates your level of awareness. None of us, even the most tactically proficient, trained and experienced, are using the same level of awareness while sitting at our dining room table as we are while walking in a dark parking garage.

Our brains will usually fail to fully compute the full spectrum of our surrounding environments (every movement, color, smell, sound etc...) as that would cause information overload and we would not be able to function. Secret Service agents, for instance, do not scan every single face, motion, movement and person in a crowd. They will scan the environment in sectors and allow their instincts (based on intense training and natural abilities) to immediately alert them to potential danger signs. With repetitive training they learn to recognize in a flash what is danger and what is not and then they act on that information. (Acting on the information is equally important as being alert enough to see it in the first place.)

If we try to tell ourselves that there is something wrong with us when we fail to notice every element and change in our surrounding environment, we are mistaken.

To have an effective "Combat Mindset" you do not need to see and hear and feel everything. You simply need to use your training (awareness and mindset training that is), your natural "awareness abilities" and skill sets (if you posses them or even know you posses them) and then you need to make sure you do not ignore the warning signs, no matter how small or seemingly foolish they may seem.

We can always improve our awareness and focus. Even walking down the street you can read license plates of vehicles passing by or describe the clothing (to yourself of course) of people walking near you. These basic exercises help to create a form of mental muscle memory that will help you see the details when you need it most.

Again, GREAT thread. A true breath of fresh air to read.
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Old March 4, 2010, 03:40 PM   #11
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Quote:
It's also a staple in several types of crime, especially for pickpockets.
And for more violent criminal efforts - the home invader who rings the front doorbell while the partner crowbars the back door or window is a simple example. I tried to convey that, but apparently wasn't plain enough.

Re the suggestion to practice reading license plates, car makes, and clothing on people passing by, I would be afraid that such practice would make me more attentive to details and less perceptive of the big picture, and therefore perhaps more susceptible to misdirection.

In another thread, a scenario was present in which a woman was robbed in a WalMart parking lot, and some folks chimed in that she should have had better awareness (which to me is a version of "blame the victim"). I answered with a scenario describing half a dozen or so people in the parking lot, one of which pulled a pistol when only a few feet from her. That is not an unrealistic scenario. We can't give full attention in several directions at once, or else it isn't "full" attention. And very often there is more than one person in sight. When you scan from person to person, there is necessarily a few moments of inattention to each, with each afforded an opportunity for a surprise action. Some folks don't seem to get that. Is the answer just to make our scans more rapid? What happens when someone deliberately sets up a diversion? That is unlikely in a parking lot, but not impossible in some other situations. How do we decide what is a diversion that we pass over and what is a real threat to which we give our full attention? Does anything ever get our full attention? If not, what about the research that shows how much better LEOs are when they are trained and experienced enough to focus on the gun hand of an assailant? Tough thing for this amateur to sort out.
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Old March 4, 2010, 04:15 PM   #12
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Quote:
the suggestion to practice reading license plates, car makes, and clothing on people passing by
Here's a tip. Try to memorize the shoes. Criminals NEVER change their shoes.

Sounds stupid, but it works.
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Old March 4, 2010, 06:25 PM   #13
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Quote:
You're not as alert as you think you are, even when you're trying to be. Our focus on certain things will leave gaps in other areas of our attention.
This and pax's examples are what is called inattentional blindness. You "see" that which has your attention but are blind to that which is in your field of view due to inattention.

http://www.skepdic.com/inattentionalblindness.html

In short, our cerebral processors are quite limited and cannot do all things all the time. Focus on one aspect and a considerable portion of the computational power is directed at that one aspect, thereby allowing other aspects to go unnoticed.

Note that it is not just a visual phenomenon. It can be inclusive of any of the senses. Have you ever noticed somebody so focussed on an activity, say reading a hot debate on The Firingline, can miss hearing when they are called to perform some other activity or to answer a question?
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Old March 4, 2010, 06:37 PM   #14
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Here's what can happen - There was a shooting with 2 GGs and one BG. Afterward the GGs were asked to describe in detail , the BG. One could remember ,in great detail [how many buttons on the shirt !] certain details while totally unaware of other details. The second GG had a similar partial description. When the two descriptions were put together they gave a complete picture . This is typical and is a part of tunnel vision as you concentrate hard on certain things. The BG was unable to describe anything after death.
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Old March 4, 2010, 06:57 PM   #15
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This may apply to multiple combatants, or high volume traffic area's. Perps many times like to work in less populated areas. Then we have the perp who feels he or she can disappear in the crowd. I can see the point, but there are no perfect situations or scenario's. We have to train to do our best and hope its enough. Some people do not have a very long attention span or seem to have a good sense of awareness. Training can help, but there are people with deficit disorders.
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Old March 26, 2010, 11:04 AM   #16
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who would've known i'd get my most impressive lesson in eyewitness reliability skimming via new forum posts.

I correctly counted 15 passes..... then my jaw dropped when he mentioned a gorilla.

Startling (and valuable) lesson
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Old March 26, 2010, 04:34 PM   #17
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Great topic, Pax! I love this kind of stuff. I watched the videos, and was fooled on about 90% of the things I should have picked up on. And, I knew what to expect, but still missed it!

It used to be considered an "art" of con men to devise a simple rouse to distract their marks to rob them blind.
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Old March 26, 2010, 07:39 PM   #18
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I saw no gorilla. I did see an individual, presumably human, sex indeterminate, dressed in a 'gorilla' suit, with improbably white lips.

I watched the video six times and counted 16 passes the first four, then 14, then 15, and watched it a few more times just to confirm 15. The pass from the taller guy, past the gorilla-suit, when the girl and the other guy reach for it could possibly have been a tip-off to him, which I originally counted as a pass. I did see the 'gorilla' the first time.

Interesting research and commentary. Good tip about the shoes.
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Old March 27, 2010, 12:49 PM   #19
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"You're not as alert as you think you are." You are right

Pax thanks, in the first video, card trick; I did notice the change in the woman’s top. Sorry to sound sexist but what really noticed was how bad it looked on her. In the second video I counted 14 passes and what I thought was one dribble, I also noted the gorilla in the midst of the ball players. In addition to the gorilla in the second video I remembered there was a gorilla sitting stage right in the first video.

As with most of us I try and to aware of what is going on around me, not only watching but also listening, if I hear footsteps coming from my rear at a faster than normal pace you bet I will slow down move to my right, and turn to see who is approaching, When in a shopping area remember that the glass display windows make an excellent but not overly obvious rearview mirror.

For me it’s important to keep and open eye, ear, and mind, but never to become overly paranoid.
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Old March 27, 2010, 12:55 PM   #20
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I had a seminar about this very subject a few months ago. It was how your eyes lie to you. Very interesting. I was shocked at my errors.
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Old March 28, 2010, 03:21 PM   #21
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I counted the passes right the first time, I started laughing at the color changing card trick video... I don't know why it was funny to just notice what was going on but it was... Great videos, interesting concepts.
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Old March 28, 2010, 07:28 PM   #22
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Good thread. Too bad it did not get as much traction as the ehem.. aforementioned victim bashing threads. Seems we just had another come out here the other day and it went straight into it.

I have seen the gorilla thread before and got that one. The color change one got me good though.

Strangely I was having this same discussion this morning.

I will tell the tale of a very odd experience I had in Iraq.

We were conducting some heavy dismounted clearing operations in a particularly bad neighborhood. I was in about as high a state of alert as I have ever been. I was looking for bad guys, boobie traps and keeping track of my IA and team mates. I started getting a little fatigued and took a knee to rest for a couple of minutes and suck down some water out of my camelback. Also wanted to talk to some of the IA about what to do next.

Anyway I am sitting there for a minute or two and notice that there are about half a dozen mortar rounds sitting in a little pile about six feet away. Up till then I had not been looking for mortar rounds. I back away a little towards the debris pile and then look around again. The debris pile is full of all kinds of ordinance, some live, some with the warheads removed. We had walked up to a recently vacated position right next to an IED factory. They had been taking the warheads out and putting them in IEDs of various bombs. Some of this ordinance was likely left over from the first gulf war and was likely not so stable given the storage conditions. Some was new stuff straight from Iran with all of their wonderful quality control. This is not such a good place to be when there are people shooting around you in various directions.

I thought I was fully alert, but had just walked into an area full of bombs without even really noticing them. My soldiers had all just walked through the area as well. No one had raised so much as a whisper about it.

I think the mind can only focus on so many things at once. Training, experience and threat evaluation help determine that. They can also serve to inhibit you from threats that you had not considered as your reasoning skills are impeded to a degree when you are so focused on being alert. This is one of the reasons that it is tough being a combat leader. As the leader you have to rely on your men to go take action and look for things while you work to retain your reasoning skills to make good decisions about what actions to take next. I think once I paused to regain control of my faculties and consider future actions I "reengaged" my reasoning skills I was able to see that there was another threat that we were not currently looking for.

All magic tricks work on misdirection. This one has been kicking round the internet for years. I found it hilarious the number of people who could not figure it out though. I had a secretary who sat there half the day trying to figure it out:

http://www.caveofmagic.com/cardtrick2.htm
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Old March 28, 2010, 09:35 PM   #23
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WOW!!!!!!!!!! Time to pay better attention. Thought I was doing it right, After watching the links bin walkin round with the shades closed. like Pax stated at least I am aware when in & out of buildings and to & from the car as to who's around
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Old March 28, 2010, 10:42 PM   #24
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I saw this video a while ago. I have played with the wide angle vision and it seems to increase awareness.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BlvqOg6HCc
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Old March 29, 2010, 09:45 PM   #25
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Saw the Gorilla in the first video (but only counted 14)

Caught the deck change, background change, and the lady's new shirt in the 2ed video.

Reminds me of an article I read a couple of weeks ago.

http://www.kagishomamabolo.com/how-t...r-luck-around/

if you check it out about half way down it makes the same point.
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